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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

In light of increased poverty numbers in Gainesville, a local activist spoke out in favor of the middle class Sunday afternoon at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza during a festival she helped create.

Trisha Ingle, sporting a Rosie the Riveter themed outfit, organized the Labor Daze Fest: A Rally For Better Jobs For Gainesville, with her husband James Ingle, former candidate for the District 2 seat on the Gainesville City Commission.

One-third of residents and one-sixth of families in Gainesville live below the poverty line, according to the City Commission candidate.

For James Ingle, the purpose of the festival was simple.

"Gainesville is a great town," Ingle said. "You can walk around and I can find Ph.D.s mowing yards for a living. It is a great place to live, and a lot of people who graduate want to be here. But it is a hard town to earn a living, and we got to change that."

Different organizations started tabling at 5 p.m. The five-hour event featured local bands, raffles and speeches.

Diana Moreno, a volunteer for Fight Back Florida and a UF graduate, helped spread awareness for the plight of the working class. The former Students for a Democratic Society member said college students could impact the job market.

"[College students] are our future work force," Moreno said. "I think they are the ones who should really be paying attention to what is happening to working people because I think that is why we all go to college; we are hoping to get a good job after college."

Increasing voter registration, another aim of the festival, gives citizens the chance to register their opinions, according to Pam Carpenter, the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections.

"The way I look at it is that the youth of our country-whether they are students in schools or just people in their 20s-somebody has to be at the helm," Carpenter said. "If you leave the voting and decision making to the older generations, they are going to make decisions based on their needs. Why in the world, as a young person, wouldn't you want to have some control?"

Gainesville resident Johnny Mendoza attended the festival with his wife and 5-month-old son. He said that although financial difficulties impact families, the connection between spouses could get any family through its fiscal troubles.

It is necessary to put officials in power with experience dealing with financial troubles, according to event organizer Trisha Ingle.

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Ingle knew what financial struggle felt like.

"I used to have to bartend three nights a week and play music and teach yoga and do whatever I could to make ends meet," Ingle said. "Still, it's tough. My husband had to leave town to find a decent job. If he worked here, he would get half of what he is getting paid and no benefits."

Ingle outlined a plan to combat poverty, focusing on getting the city to sign a local hiring petition and forcing the state to back out of a city lawsuit, paid for by taxpayers' money, that is aimed at cutting retired city workers' benefits.

Students for a Democratic Society member Fernando Figueroa, a UF philosophy senior, said students face the same troubles that currently affect Gainesville residents.

"You should worry about a job after college," Figueroa said. "Not everybody goes straight into med school or law school after they get their four-year. There are lots of college graduates out there who are unemployed or underemployed. It is a concern of everybody. Everyone needs to work."

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